Hot Docs 2014: The Starfish Throwers

The issue of hunger around the world is a monumental problem that has no one solution and cannot be solved by just one person. There is a common sentiment across many communities, cities, and countries around the world that the problem is far too big to fix so what’s the point of putting in the effort to fight it? What The Starfish Throwers sets out to show are the stories of three people, in three different cities, that do think this is an issue to care about and to show how the actions of one person can have a ripple effect in making a difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable and forgotten. What results is an inspiring, reaffirming, and uplifting film that reminds us that we can all do great things and can have a positive impact on this world.

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Director Jesse Roesler has brought together a five-star chef, a retired school teacher, and a young teenage girl with a passion form gardening, who were each able to find solutions to the hunger problems around them that fit their community.

Narayanan Krishnan is a master chef in India. One day in 2002, after witnessing a homeless man resorting to horrific actions to feed himself, he decided he could do something to help. Against his family’s wishes and fighting against the caste system, quit his job, began taking fresh meals out on to the street to feed the homeless, and started his organization Akshaya Trust. His efforts and his organization have had enormous success in what they’re doing so much so that he was able to build a housing and rehabilitation facility for the homeless and has rescued over 400 people from the streets of his city. He has given them shelter, food, basic necessities, and their dignity back. In recognition for the inspiring work he has done, Mr. Krishnan was a recipient of a CNN Hero of the Year Award in 2010.

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Allan Law is a retired school teacher who has for the past 40 years been working the streets of Minneapolis handing out food and survival kits for the homeless and the hungry through an organization he founded called Minneapolis Recreation Development, Inc. He regularly hands out over 1000 sandwiches a night, and also winter supplies on cold nights. His efforts have gained him a respect in even the most difficult of situations. The people he deals with have grown to know Mr. Law and know he will not tolerate any trouble from those he is trying to help. His work is also being recognized by the community, regularly hosting information seminars about the work he is doing and enlisting the help of church groups, community centers, and even nursing homes to help him make his sandwiches and assemble his supplies. He pays to continue doing this work using his own money and through donations. He has sacrificed his own health, often just getting a couple of hours of sleep a night, just to be able to continue doing what he loves.

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Katie Stagliano’s mission began with just one cabbage seed. What started as a school project when she was 9-years-old, Katie’s cabbage grew to over 40 pounds, which she then donated to a soup kitchen that helped feed 275 people. If one cabbage could feed that many people, what could an entire garden do? With that thought, Katie’s Krops was born, a non-profit organization that aims to feed not only the homeless and hungry but also to inspire schools and young kids in communities around the country to grow their own food and learn about nutrition. Now, 6 years later, through grants and sponsorships, Katie’s Krops will have many more gardens in several states around America growing food for the community. For her efforts, Katie is also the youngest recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award.

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The film brings these stories together in a way that shows the common struggle that anyone trying to fight hunger faces no matter where they are in the world. The specific circumstances and the solutions to that city or culture may differ but progress can be made by even just one person deciding to stand up. The title of the film is inspired by a poem called The Star Thrower and is a perfect analogy of what the overall lessons from these people are. Over the years there have been many iterations and adaptations of it but the story is that one morning an elderly man was walking on the beach and witnessed a young man throwing starfish into the sea. “Why are you throwing them into the sea” he asks. The young man responds, “The sun is coming up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back in, they will die here.” The elderly man says, “There are miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You cannot possibly make a differenceā€¯ The young man bends down, picks up another starfish and throws it into the sea. “It made a difference for that one.”


 

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